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Q&A: ‘Community’ Stars Alison Brie & Danny Pudi

Community” returned for a sixth season on Tuesday. Co-stars Alison Brie and Danny Pudi talk about moving from NBC to Yahoo, their characters and the ‘spontaneity’ on the new episodes.

Congrats on the resurrection. How does it feel?
Pudi: We’ve been numb to feeling for the last few years.
Brie: It feels really good. Yahoo has been so supportive. They really get the show. They get its humor. They love the show. We’ve got the warm and fuzzies happening with Yahoo.
Pudi: Right when this all happened. Alison said, “We’re going to do a photo shoot with Yahoo.” I was like, “What? We haven’t done that in 4 years!” Little things like that. It’s exciting again. It’s nice to have people who are coming in and breathing new life. We had a lunch with (Yahoo chief marketing officer) Kathy Savitt that was incredible — the most invigorating corporate pep talk. She really revved us up. You can tell she’s genuinely excited. It’s nice to have that in the sixth season.

How is the show different on Yahoo?
Brie: On our end I don’t think it feels that different. The level of weirdness that is happening in the show’s content is pretty similar to what was happening before. It’s just not that much of a battle for Dan to get that material in the episodes. Before it was a big struggle to push the boundaries. Now there’s a lot of freedom. It’s not like Dan is going off the rails because of having that freedom. It’s more just like the show’s really good. It’s as much itself as it’s ever been.
Pudi: We’re going back to the little things that made Community Community. Alison and I are still fighting to get high-fives in the episodes like we always have.
Brie: We’re getting more in than ever before.
Pudi: For the first time in the history of our show, we got to do another take because we wanted to try a new high five — the weirdest high five ever.
Brie: Our dream take!
Pudi: We’re adults, and this is all we want to do.

How did new cast members Paget Brewster and Keith David fit in?
Brie: They’re so cool. They fit right in. Their characters fit right in. They couldn’t be more easygoing, funny, fun people.
Pudi: Our show is unique because there are so many last-minute changes. It is an environment that can be challenging. I remember the first episode with Paget. The writers are on the set, trying to retool and solidify her character. She’s being given chunks of dialogue to handle — and she’s flying with it. It’s a testament to her — the same thing with Keith — how quickly they’re able to adapt to that. It’s a lot of strange interesting weird dialogue, and they just fit right in.
Brie: We’re lucky they’re game for anything, which you have to be to survive here. It’s a lot about embracing spontaneity.
Pudi: Yesterday Paget was doing something, which was phenomenal. She didn’t know she was going to be doing it until the day before. And she went in full out.

Did you haze them at all?
Brie: Zero. We wouldn’t attempt any hazing with him. Because we all want him to like us.
Pudi: He’s so cool. Anything he says is immediately important.

How hard was it to lose people from the cast?
Pudi: We still talk about it. We miss Yvette, but she’s off doing her “Odd Couple” and kicking butt. Donny’s off doing his thing, and Chevy’s got a new show coming out. It’s like a boost when they come out of here.
Brie: Their characters are referenced often on the show. It’s not like anyone’s pretending they were never here. Our characters have had very real relationships with all those people. It’s always a continuing theme of the show is evaluating the new relationships with the new characters and what holes are being filled. It’s a cool way to process it for us. When we’re missing Donald, our chars are missing Troy. It naturally makes its way into the show.

Danny, that must be especially hard for you.
Pudi: That was such a fun dynamic that we didn’t expect. I still talk to Donald. We got to work together on a video campaign this fall.
Brie: Gillian (Jacobs) and I are constantly doing our best to get in there, to be his new sidekick.
Pudi: Every two-person scene Abed has this year, we yell, “New Troy!”
Brie: There’s a constant competition for who can be new Troy. No one will ever be.
That’s why it’s a fun game.

How has the mix been so far this season been of character episodes vs. crazy episodes?

Pudi: It used to be two normal, one crazy, like a mixed tape — two slow songs, one fast song.
Brie: I love our themed episodes — they’re some of my favorite episodes. But I think our show thrives when it’s just about the study group and they’re having their little adventures, not a school-wide, crazy costume change episode. Like our first bottle episode, where Annie loses her pen. It’s one my favorite episodes. The concept was not crazy. We weren’t in crazy costumes. It was just innovative in terms of the relationships. That’s what we’ve seen a lot of this season. Just good writing. Good character interactions. Good jokes.
Pudi: Just finding out what makes everyone tick. It’s the greatest episode, because you get to see all sides of people. We literally strip down naked, and that’s been this year, too. It’s simpler premises, but great reveals to characters.

Does it surprise you that people are willing to be guest stars?
Pudi & Brie: Yes!
Pudi: We’re so used to people thinking I’m either Aziz Ansari or Malik Pauncholy. We’re the other formerly NBC show. I’m always surprised that people do watch our show.
Brie: It’s a testament to Dan and this crazy world that he’s created that people want to come play in our world. It’s always shocking and always cool. When you hear that Vince Gilligan is giong to be doing a scene with Gina Gershon, you’re like, what? Awesome!
Pudi: And halfway through we’re giving them an out. You sure you want to do this?
Brie: Is it going like you thought it would go?

Why do you think fans have responded to the show?
Brie: People respond to a group of people finding their people. We’re the island of misfit toys. I found my people who are as peculiar as I am.
Pudi: We’re all a little flawed. We’re all trying. We’re all in that place where we’re trying to figure things out. It’s nice to watch people who are not always succeeding.
People can relate to that. The study group is such a wide cross section of people.
Brie: It’s diverse.
Pudi: We have an Asian person playing a Spanish teacher. We have an Indian guy playing a half-Palestinian guy. It’s nice to have people of color, too, in a show without talking about it.

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